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Fresh fears of flooding in Sunderbans

Special Correspondent

Personnel, boats ready to shift people to temporary shelters

— Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

To safety: People moving out of the islands of Sunderbans as a major depression was forecast over the delta on Saturday.

KOLKATA: Twelve days after storms brought about by cyclone Aila left behind a trail of destruction in the Sunderbans in West Bengal, the region braces itself for fresh inundation.

Nearly 40,000 people are expected to be evacuated from parts of the Sunderbans following fears of fresh areas being submerged during high tide on Saturday when water could gush in through the breaches in the embankments damaged in the cyclone, Subhas Naskar, State Irrigation and Waterways Minister told The Hindu on Friday.

The State government is on alert and personnel and boats are ready to shift people to temporary shelters.

At least 30 per cent of the embankments breached during the storms are yet to be restored. Temporary restoration has been completed in the rest. A stretch of nearly 400 km. of embankments has been damaged in the two worst-affected districts of North and South 24 Parganas, Mr. Naskar said.

The Army is providing the civil authorities technical advice for the restoration of the embankments even as it continued to assist the local authorities in relief work. Ten medical teams have been sent to the affected areas and another 10 are on standby in the city, a Defence spokesperson said.

Meeting

In the wake of allegations of partisan distribution of relief by different political parties, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has convened on Sunday a meeting of leaders of the different parties that have a representation in the Assembly to discuss ways to expedite relief supplies.

The total allocation for relief and restoration work by the State government has been increased to Rs. 112 crore.

Rain likely

It is feared that relief operations may be affected in view of likely rain in the coastal areas over the next few days following the formation of a low pressure in the northwest region of the Bay of Bengal. Rain has been forecast in north Bengal.

The rain is likely to be accompanied by gales with a wind speed of between 30 and 40 km. an hour though there is very little likelihood of the low pressure triggering cyclonic storms, an official of the Regional Meteorological Centre said.

The State government has requested banks to convert farmers’ loans into long-term loans in the areas affected by the calamity and to see that the farmers were not made to repay loans immediately as per RBI guidelines, Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta said.

The team of Central officials, who would assess the damage, is expected to arrive here on Saturday and will work in three groups – one in the Darjeeling hills where landslips have occurred and the others in the North and South 24 Parganas districts.

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